The Minnesota Cancer Alliance Update
Gonda Lobby – CEC 334
200 First Street SW
Rochester, MN 55905
A Note from the Chair:The Minnesota Cancer Alliance’s
Commitment to Colorectal Cancer
Since the Minnesota Cancer Alliance was established in 2005, colorectal cancer
screening was one of our four priorities. In January 2008, the Steering Committee
voted to strengthen its focus on ways to increase colorectal cancer screening in
Minnesota.This decision was based on several factors: availability of effective
screening tests and national screening guidelines; data showing that colorectal cancer
is a major source of avoidable cancer morbidity and mortality that affects some groups
disproportionately (e.g., American Indians, uninsured); and the ongoing work of
committed Alliance members of the colorectal cancer screening and health disparities
tasks forces.Thus, the elements were in place to accomplish our goal to increase
colorectal cancer screening from 66 percent to 75 percent by 2010.
As we organize to accomplish this goal, it is helpful to think about what we need to do
to increase access to colorectal cancer screening services, to improve delivery of these
services by health systems and providers and to improve demand by the community
for colorectal cancer screening. In this newsletter issue, we share how we are working
in each of these areas to increase screening to reduce deaths.
An exciting development to share is a grant that the Minnesota Department of Health is
submitting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to offer colorectal cancer
screening to men and women as part of Minnesota’s Sage Screening Program. Many
Alliance members are contributing to this effort. If the grant is funded, it will help move
us closer to providing access to life-saving cancer screening to under- and uninsured
If you have ideas about how we can improve screening rates for colorectal cancer or
you wish to get involved in these activities, please let us know. We are open to other
potential opportunities to help screen more Minnesotans for this preventable disease.
DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D.
Chair, Minnesota Cancer Alliance
A Note from the Chair
Partners Host Free
Prevention Act Moving
Group Users Humor to
Spread Cancer Prevention
Commitment to Reduce
Colorectal Cancer Deaths
Cancer Plan Minnesota
Progress Report 2009 is now available.
To view or order visit www.mncanceralliance.org
DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D.
Masonic Cancer Center,
University of Minnesota
Cheri Rolnick, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Karin Bultman, M.P.H.
M.D. - C.L.U.E.S.
DeAnna Finifrock, R.N.,
Matt Flory, M.P.P.
American Cancer Society
Yolanda Nina Garces, M.D.
Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
Patrick Herson, M.D.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of
Karen Karls, L.S.W.
Itasca County Health &
MeritCare Health Systems
Alexander Levitan, M.D.,
Minnesota Medical Association
Jennifer Lundblad, Ph.D.,
M.B.A. - Stratis Health
American Lung Association of
Kimberly Ness, R.N., M.S.
Fairview Southdale Hospital
New Americans Community
Brian Rank, M.D.
HealthPartners Medical Group
Linda Sershon, R.N., M.A.
Lisa Stephens, M.S., C.H.E.S.
NCI’s Cancer Information
Patricia Swanson, R.N.
Jonathan Slater, Ph.D.
Minnesota Department of
Partners Host Free
Colorectal Cancer Screening
In an effort to improve access to colorectal
cancer screening, Allina Hospitals and
Clinics and partners offered free colorectal
cancer screenings to under- or uninsured
Minnesotans at Abbott Northwestern
Hospital Saturday, March 7.
Twenty-three people received
colonoscopies, seven of whom had polyps
Services were donated by Abbott’s Center
for Advanced Endoscopy and Virginia Piper
Cancer Institute; Minnesota Gastroenterology, P.A.; Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates,
Ltd.; Hospital Pathology Associates, P.A.; American Cancer Society; Portico Healthnet; Colon
Cancer Coalition; Minnesota Cancer Alliance; and Minnesota Department of Health.
“Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., even
though it is almost entirely preventable when people undergo routine screening,” says John
Allen, M.D., a gastroenterologist with Minnesota Gastroenterology, P.A., who helped provide
colonoscopies at the event. “When detected early, the survival rate for colorectal cancer is
greater than 90 percent. Even if you don’t have family risk factors, it’s important for all people
50 and older to get screened.”
Dr. Allen cites lack of insurance as the biggest barrier for people who do not get screened.
“We are trying to help people get screened and send a message about the importance of
colon cancer prevention,” he says.
Thus far, the Colorectal Cancer ScreeningTask Force and its partners have hosted four
screening events, during which 90 individuals have been screened.The first two events were
held last year at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina and one was at HealthPartners in Saint
Paul. A fifth event is planned at Unity Cancer Center in Coon Rapids in May.
While the Alliance and its partners continue to plan additional screening events, cost is a
challenge. Currently, there is no source of funding for colon cancer screening or treatment for
the uninsured.Therefore, supporting organizations must seek partners willing to donate their
services for the day, including follow-up care for individuals who may need it.
For more information, contact David Simmons at (651) 201-3607 or
Colorectal Cancer Prevention Act Moving Forward
The Minnesota Colorectal Cancer Prevention Act (HF 293/SF 366) is proposed legislation
to fund colorectal cancer screening services for low-income, uninsured and underinsured
individuals. The legislation has been approved by health policy committees in both the Senate
and the House of Representatives chambers. It is also under consideration for inclusion
in the House health and human services budget. The legislation would provide funding
to Hennepin County Medical Center and MeritCare – both serving at-risk, low-income
populations – to screen 100 to 200 eligible patients. Learn more about the bill at:
For more information, contact Rebecca Thoman, M.D., at email@example.com or visit
Abbott’s Center for Advanced Endoscopy
staff volunteers: Ann Harris, Carolyn Allen,
Carol Squalls, Lorri Herlofsky, Scott Ketover,
M.D., and Cathy Weinandt
Group Uses Humor to Spread Cancer Prevention Message
Cancer screening can detect early cancer and the polyps that might develop into cancer,
but the preparation for the test and the colonoscopy itself are a hard sell. Detected early,
colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate.
“We know colon cancer is preventable, and the prevention is screening,” said Warren Larson,
public policy and community benefit coordinator for MeritCare-Bemidji. “It’s a tough message
to get across, but dying of colon cancer is miserable.”
A committee concerned about the high rate of colon cancer in the Bemidji area – 125 cases
diagnosed annually between 2001 and 2005 and 45 deaths – decided to take screening
education in a new direction. Members will make presentations this month to Red Lake
Nation, the Bemidji Noon Rotary Club, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Ball Club. Red Lake
plans to tape the presentation and post it on the Web site RLNN at rlnn.com.
Led by Polyp Man, portrayed by Larson in a lumpy red costume created by Cheryl Winnett, the group will use reverse
psychology and humor to focus community attention on the health hazard and urge people to undergo screenings.
“Polyp Man is going to train people how to say ‘No’ when their doctor brings up a colonoscopy,” Larson said. “He wants
people to continue eating greasy food, not exercise, and for heaven’s sake, don’t get a colonoscopy. He fears that they could
(put) polyps on the endangered tissues list. This is how we’re planning to reach people. I hope it works because it’s pretty
The serious side of the message is that colorectal cancer rates are higher among American Indians than among the general
population. “American Indian men and women are more likely to die of colorectal cancer than any other group in Minnesota,”
said Rosie Morgan, R.N., of Red Lake Community Health Nursing.
In addition to his position at MeritCare, Larson serves on the Midwest Division of the American Cancer Society and
Minnesota Cancer Alliance boards of directors.
Reproduced with permission from Bemidji Pioneer. Photo courtesy of Monte Draper; Story courtesy of Molly Miron.
Roundtable Sparks Commitment to Reduce Colorectal Cancer Death Rates
During a recent colorectal cancer roundtable meeting Thursday, March 5, leaders from Minnesota’s health systems and
health plans discussed how best to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 75 percent to reduce the number of
statewide deaths from colorectal cancer to fewer than 500 by the end of 2010.
Representatives from most Minnesota care systems, along with the Institute for Clinical System Improvement (ICSI);
the Minnesota Department of Health; Minnesota Community Measurement; and all of Minnesota’s health plans
reviewed Minnesota cancer data and strategized on how to collectively decrease deaths from colorectal cancer.
“The roundtable was sparked by the realization that today we have the capacity to effectively screen all Minnesotans
for colorectal cancer according to accepted guidelines,” says Brian Rank, M.D., HealthPartners Medical Group and
Clinics medical director. “With the understanding that screening saves lives, but that all of our care systems fail to
screen many patients, participants committed to using their resources to measurably increase screening rates to
decrease the misery, cost and deaths associated with a late stage colorectal cancer diagnosis.”
Looking ahead, ICSI will summarize the ideas generated and the Minnesota Cancer Alliance will convene an e-learning
collaborative to move these ideas forward.
The roundtable was held at Medica Headquarters in Minnetonka, and was co-sponsored by the Minnesota Cancer
Alliance and the American Cancer Society.
Warren Larson, AKA “Polyp
Gonda Lobby • Cancer Education Center 334
200 First Street SW • Rochester, MN 55905
WorkingTogether is published quarterly for health care professionals, community members, advocates and survivors. Its purpose is to
share the Minnesota Cancer Alliance’s progress in reducing the state’s cancer burden.
Editor: Nicole Bennett Engler. To submit story ideas, provide feedback, or unsubscribe, contact Bennett Engler at 507-266-9087 or
Member Spotlight: Minnesota Oncology
Minnesota Oncology is the largest independent oncology subspecialty practice in Minnesota.
The group is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers and blood disorders.
Known previously by the acronym, “MOHPA,” the practice has recently re-branded to Minnesota
The practice is physician-owned and operated with 42 physicians and 10 certified nurse
practitioners in seven clinics across theTwin Cities area. Its mission is to provide the highest
quality cancer and hematology care to restore health and to enhance and prolong life for the
patients it serves.
The work of the Minnesota Cancer Alliance is faithfully supported by Minnesota Oncology. Etta
Erickson from the business development department and Kim Ness, R.N., C.N.S., A.O.C.N., both
serve on the Minnesota Cancer Alliance Survivor Care Plan ProjectTeam. Ness is a colon cancer
nurse navigator with the group’s Edina Clinic and serves on the Alliance’s Steering Committee.
“Our organization joined the Alliance because we are deeply committed to the patients and
families we serve,” says Ness. “We believe that by linking arms with other Minnesotans who
share our passion for this work, we can truly begin to make strides in reducing the impact of
cancer on people throughout our state.”
For more information, call (651) 602-5349 or visit www.mohpa.com.
Kim Ness, R.N., C.N.S.,
Oncology colon cancer